Here, a rare book that I cherish always next to my desk, Man Ray.  A most beautiful edition, published in 1934, rather damaged after years of turning the pages in admiration, but still existing.  It shows a wonderful pen and ink drawing done by one radical of another radical.  It was Paris, between the wars, and the American Man Ray had come to France. He was photographing the people he enjoyed spending time with. And Picasso did this drawing of him, January 3rd,’34.  It is a great portrait, the one searching eye going to the root. It makes me wonder what are the combinations it takes to bring out a radical idea? The artist? alone working?  Or the environment?  Where is that perfect balance that says, “yes, you have found the root”.  A radical person goes to the roots…

The use of solarization was developed by Man Ray and Lee Miller around 1929. This book first showed the pictures in print, with texts by Man Ray, Andrè Breton, Paul Eluard, Rose Sélavy, Tristan Tzara… radical beauty in images and texts.

In an article from 1950, Man Ray wrote some reflections on his success. Painting was controlled, he suggested, by the heart; photography by the mind.  “But desire and love for the subject directs both mediums.”

In the same radical way, he considered himself more of a painter than a photographer, and yet it is his photographs that are so sought after now. Until the end of May, the National Portrait Gallery in London is showing many of these portraits.

Dressing is Easy.  In 1973 an article in the most influential magazine at the time, Casabella, published a series of drawings on what you could make out of a square of cloth with a few cuts, folds and stitches.  As radical then as the new materials, Rei Kawakubo is using now to fashion a single radical article of clothing. Vestirsi è Facile was another of the many ideas that came from Archizoom beyond architecture.

Here, another  radical innovation from the period, body painting!

Rei Kawakubo took us to her radical root this week. The amazing technical mastery she has over fabric and pattern. So many demands on the cut, the execution, that only a master of the craft could have achieved such an amazing vision.



In 1968, Poggi of Pavia crafted this bookshelf for Ugo La Pietra.

It is called “uno sull’altro”- one over another.

A native of Milano – Ugo La Pietra is an artist, an architect, a designer, a film maker and a radical thinker. He was exploring very early in the 70’s the power of the video as social comment and winning awards for his filmmaking.  As an architect, Ugo was a radical citizen on the streets of Milano in his public activities “repurposing” spaces for living. Most recently seen at FRAC Paris in a retrospective, “Habiter la ville, c’est partout chez soi”   “Living in a City where everywhere is home”.


Lasting a little more than a decade, from 1966 until 1974, Florence based Archizoom’s projects reflected the group’s search for a new and flexible technology-based approach to urban design. The four architects Branzi, Corretti, Deganello and Morozzi created Anti-Design ideas for furniture as well as visionary environments presented at international exhibitions. Always the use of new materials are seen in the radical idea of any era and Archizoom was no exception. Here a square couch with a leopard flower seating arrangement.

SUPERSTUDIO from the 1970’s raised concerns about the exhausted modernist ideals and design both in Italy and abroad.  In 1972 their ideas at MOMA in NYC, “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape” claimed that modernism was adding to the social and environmental ills.  SUPERSTUDIO’s thinking still influences. Their idea that technology could have negative consequences, and the environmental impact of architecture must be considered, are now very much a part of the next generation of radical contemporary architects.


In Magazine was another very special outlet for many designers and architects during the 70’s and sadly had a short life. With drawings, photos and montages of Sottsass, Sordi, Superstudio and Archizoom, the radical ideas of Italian design even now always seems fresh.


Posted on: Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

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